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July 27, 2004
Identifying Areas of Healthcare Cost Increases

If you're wondering where the most significant cost increases will be in your healthcare programs, a new book released recently by MetLife can help you make some predictions. A Year in the Life of a Million American Workers was written to help employers identify the major injuries and illnesses impacting their employees, and outline strategies for understanding and controlling their disability and health-related costs.

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"Many employers don't realize the significant impact that disability can have on productivity, healthcare costs, and the bottom line," says the book's author, Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, vice president and national medical director of MetLife Disability. "Approximately 10 percent of an employer's workforce will be on short-term disability leave over the course of a year. This is the exact time when employees are consuming more than half of the company's medical expenditures. It's critical that businesses carefully examine their health and disability patterns in order to get a better control on costs."

A few of the trends identified by Leopold in the book include:

· The impact arthritis is having on the workplace. This could cause employers to reengineer job tasks, jobsites, and job tools.

· The aging workforce could drive three times the prevalence of heart disease in the workforce in the next 10 years, forcing greater societal intolerance for sedentary lifestyles, smoking, and obesity.

· With the aging of the workforce, cancer is likely to increase twofold over the next 10 years. Expect to see new insurance-related penalties for risky lifestyle choices, such as smoking.

· An uptick in the incidences of stress, anxiety, and depression among blue-collar workers, erasing the stereotype of psychiatric illnesses as being "white collar."

Leopold suggests that in light of these trends, disease prevention will take on an increasingly critical role. "Prevention of illness or injury is the highest priority for appropriately managing workplace absences," agreed Jane Brody, a personal health columnist, in her introductory remarks at the MetLife conference where the book was unveiled. "Investing in prevention and risk reduction programs, such as mental health services, physical rehabilitation services and cardiac wellness programs, can be very beneficial to an employer's bottom line."

You can obtain a copy of the book online at

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